When many people think of “speech therapy”, they associate it with treatment for articulation disorders—those children who say “wabbit” for “rabbit” or “Thally” for “Sally”.
While treatment of speech sound disorders is part of what speech-language pathologists (a.k.a. speech therapists) do, they serve many other roles as well. Other aspects of the profession include:
- Language—This involves delays or deficits in vocabulary, syntax/grammar, descriptive language, etc. Children with a language disorder may have trouble following directions, expressing themselves in speech or writing, or understanding non-literal language.
- Fluency (“stuttering”)—Fluency disorders involve an excessive amount of repetitions, prolongations, interjections, or revisions in a child’s speech. Fluency therapy involves understanding how speech is produced and incorporating strategies to manage or reduce speech disfluencies.
- Reading/writing—Speech therapists can evaluate disorders in reading (phonological processing, rate, accuracy, and comprehension) and writing (spelling, use of descriptive language) and provide therapy which targets these skills from a multi-sensory perspective.
- Pragmatics—Children with pragmatic disorders have difficulty using language appropriately in various social scenarios. Therapy for pragmatic language disorders involves role-playing and experiential learning with different topics, environments, and conversational partners.
- Feeding and swallowing—Speech therapists work as part of a team to evaluate and remediate feeding and swallowing issues such as: decreased oral-motor strength and coordination, difficulty with chewing, trouble moving food from the mouth into the throat, trouble with certain food textures, and “picky” eating.
- Voice—Children with voice disorders may have a hoarse voice, a hypernasal voice, or a hyponasal voice. Speech therapists can teach a child how to use his/her voice in a more productive way, and may also refer a child to an ENT to rule out any harmful growths which may affect vocal quality.
- Auditory Processing—Children with auditory processing disorders experience deficits in their ability to distinguish and discriminate speech sounds. These children may have trouble following multi-step directions, have poor reading and spelling skills, or frequently ask for repetition. Speech therapists use listening activities to help remediate the deficits and provide children with compensatory strategies.